St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Letter to the editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

Lost, not forgotten

A Coast Guard crew perished 40 years ago, but the memory of the men's service has not faded.

Published May 30, 2007

Maintenance and crew members watch a wreath being laid at the Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater in memory of the six Coast Guard flight crew members during a ceremony on Tuesday. The crew died during a search-and-rescue mission.
[Martha Rial | Timesl]
[Times photo: Martha Rial]
Scott Powlus listens to Coast Guard officials recall the events of March 5, 1967 when his father, Electronics Technician first class Eckley M. Powlus, Jr., and five other Coast Guard members died in the Gulf of Mexico trying to save the Flying Fish yacht.

CLEARWATER - Susan Taylor's eyes still get full when she talks about the day they knocked on her door.

But the words - something like husband, missing, water - are a blur.

Taylor became a widow before the age of 21. Her husband, Coast Guardsman Albert Wilson, became a legend. That was 40 years ago. Taylor has since remarried and gained a deeper meaning of her loss.

But enduring connections last. They last through remarriage, death, 60 feet of water and even 40 years.

"I wanted what most girls wanted at that age - to be married," she said Tuesday. "And he was a wonderful husband."

A day after the nation honored its war dead, a more intimate commemoration of valor took place at the Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater honoring Wilson and five fellow crewmen who lost their life March 5, 1967, in an ill-fated air rescue mission.

Clifford E. Hanna, Eckley M. Powlus Jr., Charles F. Shaw, Ralph Studstill, James Thompson, and Arthur L. Wilson - the men of Crew 1240 - never returned after rescuing a sinking yacht. Only in the past year has the discovery of the wreckage of their ill-fated trip given a hint to their demise.

So at the Clearwater station Tuesday, on the C-130 Hangar, about 70 Coast Guard officers stood in their dress blues with a dozens of other officials to salute the men's sacrifice and bring some closure to their families and former coworkers.

"It's a sobering reason why we're here today, but we never know what will happen and we must never forget," said retired Vice Admiral Howard Thorsen. "Forty years later we're still appreciative of their performance and duty."

It was around 9 o'clock on that March night when the crew boarded an Albatross airplane - a new-style amphibian craft - and flew out from the air station, then in St. Petersburg. A yacht was sinking near Apalachicola in the Florida Panhandle.

The plane successfully dropped a dewatering pump to the distressed yacht then disappeared into a thick fog. Thirteen days later, the bodies of Studstill, 38, Hanna, 30 and Shaw, 22 were found.

Up until last summer there wasn't much more known about the wreck.

During a routine dive, Michael C. Barnette of St. Petersburg found the plane wreckage in the Gulf of Mexico about 22 miles east of Apalachicola. His findings were confirmed by Florida State University's Crime Scene Investigation team and the Coast Guard. The remains of Wilson, Powlus and Thompson have never been found.

On Tuesday, representatives for each family received an American flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol in the men's honor at U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young's request.

And in June, a special plaque honoring the crew will be transported by a buoy tender boat and sunk at the wreckage site. The site will be designated a grave site and restricted from divers.

"He gave the ultimate sacrifice," said Scott Powlus, 44, who was 3 years old when his father died. "So, yes, he's a hero to the Coast Guard, to the United States of America and to me."

Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at or 727445-4162.

[Last modified May 30, 2007, 00:08:57]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters